Heineken Champions Cup: Ulster and EPCR to ‘review’ pitch controversy

Heineken Champions Cup: Ulster and EPCR to 'review' pitch controversy


Ulster’s game with La Rochelle on Saturday took place behind closed doors at the Aviva Stadium

Ulster and Champions Cup organisers will “carry out a full review” after Saturday’s game with La Rochelle was controversially played behind closed doors at the Aviva Stadium.

The game was moved by the European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) on Friday night.

There were concerns over the Kingspan Stadium pitch after a week of freezing weather.

Ulster CEO Jonny Petrie had said the move cost Ulster “around £700,000”.

Head coach Dan McFarland added: “The bottom line is the decision was wrong.”

Northern Ireland had experienced sub-zero temperatures in the build-up to the match at Kingspan Stadium and Ulster had used frost covers and heaters in attempts to preserve the playing surface.

Petrie explained on Saturday that match referee Luke Pearce had found parts of the pitch were still unplayable when he surveyed the surface on Friday afternoon around 14:00 GMT.

But with temperatures forecast to rise, the Ulster chief believed a “further inspection at 10 o’clock this morning would be a reasonable route to go down”.

The EPCR decided that “due to concerns over the safety of the playing surface” would be moved to Dublin and would be played behind closed doors, which took away home advantage, before the Aviva Stadium was confirmed to host the match on Saturday morning.

The match went ahead at the Aviva Stadium without any Ulster fans in attendance, but a “large official delegation” from La Rochelle was permitted to attend.

Petrie tweetedexternal-link that the decision to allow the delegation entry was the decision of the EPCR and Ulster “would be subject to legal action for compensation if they weren’t permitted entry”.

Holders La Rochelle ran out 36-29 winners, which condemned Ulster to two defeats in their opening two Champions Cup matches.

An Ulster statement said: “The team’s focus is now firmly on preparing for next weekend’s URC fixture against Connacht, so we will not be making any further comment at this time.”

A "large official delegation" from La Rochelle was present at the match
A “large official delegation” from La Rochelle was present at the match

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